In 2007, you could have had the ugliest house in Verona with the most outdated kitchen and bathrooms, and it still would have sold. Fast, and probably over the asking price to boot.
Not so now. There are 56 homes on the market here today. Many have been on the market for months and have had at least one price cut. If you want to sell your house in 2010 for a decent price, you’ve got to do a bit of work: You’ve got to transform it from your house into the buyer’s.
“Today is the day to start thinking that you don’t live there any more,” says Valerie Ruddy, a Verona resident since 1996 who is also an interior designer and owner of a Decorating Den franchise. “Move on to your next life in your next home.”
The changes you need to make to make your home more salable may take some elbow grease, but they are not costly.
First step: Remove the clutter and the personal collections. Verona houses don’t generally have big entrance halls or mudrooms. If yours has a pile of shoes or gear by the door, they have to go to give buyers at least the appearance of space. Clear everything off your kitchen counters, and almost everything from the closets. “Take all the jackets out except the season you are in,” Ruddy says. Play up any interesting architectural features. If your favorite chair is positioned for TV viewing but blocks the fireplace, move the chair while you’re selling the house. Remember what drew you to the home in the first place.
Ruddy also advises putting away personal collections. “Take all the school pictures of your children off the stairwell,” she says. “It’s not about your history with the house. It’s about helping buyers to imagine their own history in it.”
The second step is to make your house look like it’s 2010. Rip up worn broadloom, especially if there are good floors underneath that can make the room seem larger. If the wallpaper is old, take it down and paint the walls a neutral color. Ditto any brightly painted children’s rooms. “Buyers now don’t want to see a project,” Ruddy says. Put a slipcover over a worn sofa, too.
Third step: Give every room a clear purpose. Your catch-all junk room might be better staged as an extra bedroom, even if it means pulling one of the kids’ old beds out of the attic. Home offices are important now, but a room with just a desk, a lamp and a chair is going to be more appealing that a cubicle crammed into the corner of a bedroom.
Fourth step: Invest in small touches that have big impact. Replace the old kitchen cabinet hardware with modern knobs. If the cabinets are dark, take a weekend to paint them light. Re-caulk the tub and replace your worn shower curtain and rug with bright white ones. Put fresh flowers in the bathroom while you’re there too. A small piece of granite can turn the radiator by your front door into an entrance hall shelf. Accessorize it with a place for keys. Take your two best candlesticks and one piece of pottery and put them on the mantle. That’s all.
Ruddy knows that it can be hard for sellers to change the way they live in and look at their home, but she has a suggestion: Bring in an outsider to help you look at your space with the eyes of a potential buyer. It can be a professional stager, but it doesn’t need to be. Someone who doesn’t have a lot of history with you or your home can be effective too.
“It can be an acquaintance from work, somebody you have met recently, or your Realtor,” she says. “Ask them very specifically what might prevent your house from selling and listen to them. Don’t get offended.”
Thanks to Valerie Ruddy for the before and after shots.